7 Tips for Frost Seeding Cover Crops

Clovers and alfalfa are good choices for cover crop species that can be frost seeded, according to a Penn State expert.

Frost seeding — broadcasting cover crops in late winter — is not the typical method for seeding cover crops, but that should not scare growers away from the practice, according to Sjoerd Duiker, professor of soil management at Penn State University. 

Here are 7 tips for growers considering frost seeding:

1. Legume Magic

Legumes are typically used for frost seeding, according to Duiker. “Leguminous covers are really very interesting because they fix atmospheric nitrogen (N) and can provide a fertilizer N value to the next crop,” he says. Duiker stated that studies have shown that more than 30% of the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of U.S. crop production is solely due to the use of N fertilizer. By reducing N fertilizer use, it further reduces a grower’s GHG footprint.

“I’ve seen many times what I call the magic of legumes for soil health,” Duiker says. “If we grow legumes, we often see a yield improvement in the next crop if it is a grass-type crop like corn, sudangrass or sorghum that is beyond the N benefit.”

Duiker credits that yield improvement to the effect legumes have on the soil, perhaps to their taproots or the rhizobium bacteria that benefit from legumes. 

“We also see a lot of earthworms under the legumes, and they have a beneficial effect on our soil,” Duiker adds. “Their organic matter helps improve organic matter content of the soil, which improves cation exchange capacity.”

Another benefit of increased soil organic matter is better water infiltration and…

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Sarah hill web

Sarah Hill

Sarah Hill is associate editor for the ag division, contributing primarily to Precision Farming Dealer, Strip-Till Farmer, No-Till Farmer and Cover Crop Strategies. Hill has a farm background and graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in Ag Journalism and a minor in Animal Science. She has previously served as managing editor of DairyBusiness and is a member of the National Agri-Marketing Association and American Ag Editors’ Association.

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